Saturday, 15 September 2018


The fight
for  a

If you are baffled by the labels used in today`s arguments about gender (male, female or whatever) you may also be baffled about the labels used in another of today`s hot topics.

The topic is housing and the current housing crisis.The label is “housing association.”

Not the most exciting  thing  to be arguing about. But surprisingly, there is a lot at stake -lots of cash, much of it government cash.

Housing associations were set up in the 1960`s to provide low-cost housing for workers and are now the leading providers of social housing in Britain.

They are non profit-making organisations. But critics say that some housing associations have adopted aggressive commercial practices.These associations  are no more than property developers aiming for  big profits say the critics.

Not so, say the housing associations - what we do is  to benefit the community, not to distribute profits.

So with all this argument going on, it is no surprise that the real property developers found it quite simple –and profitable too- to jump on the bandwagon and use the housing association  label when building social  and affordable housing .

Some of these property developers are powerful business giants, for example  Legal and General and British Land.

And their  use of the housing  association label did not please the genuine housing associations.They feared that they would lose out on deals with local authorities. And they also feared that powerful for-profit businesses in their space could damage their reputation.

Things got worse in recent months with a rapid expansion  of these for-profit providers, and Blackstone, the world’s largest property investor, making a  move when it bought 90% of the London-based Sage Housing Associaton

So what was to be done? After protests from the associations, Mr Greg Clark the business secretary last week intervened. He has  ordered that companies must no longer call  themselves housing associations.

David Orr, chief executive of the housing associations` trade body the National Housing Federation welcomed Mr Clark`s intervention. He said: “This is  important and timely . At the heart of our mission and purpose as a sector is that we do what we do for the benefit of the community, not to distribute profits to shareholders.”

That is not the end of the story.

Today  there was news of two more for-profit companies using the housing association label.

They are  London-based Major Housing Association and Funding Affordable Homes (FAH) Housing Association,  also London – based ,a subsidiary of an investment fund by the same name, which was set up by the merchant bank Salamanca Group.

Major is refusing to change its name, having been registered for nine years.

So the fight goes on for the housing association label.

And Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation which publishes this blog will play its part by continuing to challenge those allegedly genuine housing associations which have fast become nothing more than property developers.

Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation publishes this blog. Information about the Federation is available on 01228 522277 or 01228 532803

Tuesday, 28 August 2018


A rescue
merger with 
The holiday season is just about over and Riverside Housing Associaton back to work on Merseyside has just added another 2,700 more to its massive porfolio of 55,000 homes.

Riverside gets its latest boost from what it calls a merger with Workington (Cumbria) housing association, Impact. Some people say it is a takeover of Impact. The social housing press decribed it as “ a rescue merger with a troubled  landlord.”

It was also a controversial merger. Impact was accused of secrecy, spin and failure to properly consult tenants during the months of negotiations with Riverside.

All these accusations came  after Impact was put in the dock by the national housing regulator for failure to show “an appropriate degree of skill, diligence, effectiveness, prudence and foresight”.

Now, seven months after that damning verdict, Impact hopes for  better days ahead and a secure future with Riverside. This future, according to interim managing director Bryonie Shaw will include “the support of our tenants, shareholders and local partners”.

LANDMARK EVENT: Carol Matthews (left), Mark Costello Chairman of Impact, and Bryonie Shaw
Ms Shaw says she is “thrilled” about the merger and the Riverside chief executive Carol Matthews talks of the merger as “a  landmark event.”

Thirty two miles away in Carlisle it  a different story.  It is in Carlisle where Riverside has the bulk of its Cumbria property- 6,500 homes.

And it is in Carlisle that Riverside has had quite a bulk of complaints, particularly recently from the city council. Relations with the council have not been good and a planned new liaison group arrangement with the council is struggling to get off the ground in face of criticism by councillors.

There is no talk of thrills or landmark events in  the city council chamber.The councillors are standing up for tenants who they say have no say in the running of their homes.

No talk of thrills or landmark events either among the Riverside tenants according to the Carlisle newspaper, the News and Star. The paper devoted four and half column inches to damning social media comments about Riverside and its merger with Impact.

Here are some of those comments:

***“Why on earth is Riverside  investing in Impact Housing? Riverside can`t cope with its own demands for home improvements and never repair anything correctly, always just patching stuff up- and that`s if you are lucky enough  to get them out to repair anything.”

***“What a joke. Maybe they should come and finish the work you started and take a couple of staff to Specsavers. You`re still waiting to change the kitchen cupboard fronts-there`s not one right one.. Even better, instead of sending young boys who stand there rubbing their heads, employ people who know what needs to be done there and then”.

***“Six months for Riverside to repair my rotten back door. My nana could have kicked it in by the end”.

***“ Riverside can`t cope  with the houses it already has. Gardens and houses both are a disgrace”.

***“Hope they don`t need  repairs done in a hurry”.

***“Absolute joke. Maybe now they will get more jobs done.”

Thrills, landmark events and now, highly critical social media comments.

Yes, impact!

Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation publishes this blog. Information about the Federation is available on 01228 522277 or 01228 532803

Tuesday, 21 August 2018


League tables: a warning from Scotland